Perhaps there should be less emphasis on lists of "great courses" and on "toughness." Challenge is one thing. Extreme difficulty is quite another. Unfortunately, nobody likes to think his course can be taken apart by anybody, and that too often becomes the measuring stick by which courses are designed. JACK NICKLAUS
"Yeah, I've found that hunting zombies and carjacking a Ferrari in South Beach is a lot tougher in real life than it is in video games, too."
Jay Busbee with that killer line to this revelation that Rory McIlroy is finding the real TPC Sawgrass much more difficult than the video game version he knew before this week.
Rory McIlroy, who knows a thing or two about both real golf and the video kind. He kills time between tournaments by playing Tiger Woods '09, and just this week got his first live taste of Sawgrass, a course he's completely mastered --he once shot a 54 over 18 virtual holes -- on the game. His verdict, according to Reuters:
"It's a lot different. You get up to holes like 11 on the computer and you can drive it up to the big tree on the right, which is like 150 from the green, I had a good drive yesterday and was still hitting a five wood in, it is not quite like it is on the Play Station," he told reporters.
Yeah, I've found that hunting zombies and carjacking a Ferrari in South Beach is a lot tougher in real life than it is in video games, too. (Tip: neither one is recommended.)
A lovely breeze combined with a lively atmosphere made it quite enjoyable to tootle around the TPC Sawgrass.
The Wednesday Caddie Competition lived up to the hype, with a huge gallery turning out to add to the caddie misery experience.
After walking off of the 16th green, players arrive at the net protected tee and greet some less fortunate souls who are thankfully given a front row seat by the tour. After a wait, the players leisurely swing away at the 17th green, which, contrary to some claims is not as large as portrayed (3,900 square feet and steeply contoured, it plays very small). All you can think is, the tempo won't be so fluid tomorrow. Enjoy it while you can!
Following their practice shots, the players move over to the left side of the tee where another set of blocks are placed. A tip jar allows players to make a charitable donation. Some loopers on the range later said the haul was around $4000 and that the PGA Tour matches the number.
The caddies begin their preparation, some taking practice swings, others moving over to the side to loosen up a bit, though most have probably taken a few swings earlier in the ridiculously slow practice round.
Before teeing off, player heckling is a given. While I was watching, only Will MacKenzie actually lugged his player's bag from tee to green, a tradition that doesn't seem to be too closely adhered to by other players. (Granted, that would be an embarrassing reason to WD...strained lower back caused by caddie competition luggage toting.)
As for the overall scene, the overall atmosphere--and here comes the first dreaded major reference--is major-like. For a Wednesday it was remarkably festive out on the course, all highlighted by the action on 17.
The amenities, presentation and overall convenience factor for fans is second to none once you are on the property. (Apparently the city of Ponte Vedra Beach hired a lunatic to time their A1A signals. Nor do they apparently have any traffic control officers on the payroll. And that's the last time I'll bitch about traffic, tonight.)
Most striking thing of all. There are kids everywhere. Having fun. Enjoying golf.
The players seemed more friendly than normal, doling out balls and autographs. Apparently most schools just take the week off, or, in the case of Teacher Of The Year Mr. House's second grade class, they get their own standard bearer.
Either way, it's great to see and probably the reason there is such a festive feel at The Players.
Seems the city of Spokane and golfers are battling over a smoking ban. While I'm in the school of people repulsed by the smell of those Rottweiler terds, I do support the rights of those who want to increase their chances of some form of really awful cancer.
"Golf and cigars go together like a hand in a glove,'' said Dale Taylor of Tacoma, president of the Cigar Association of Washington, a smokers' rights groups. "That may be the only time some people smoke.''
Washington state is among the least hospitable places for smokers, with no smoking allowed in any public indoor space, or outside within 25 feet of a door or window. But the proposed smoking ban on public links has struck a nerve, in part because of the vastness of golf courses. Playing a typical 18-hole course, such as Downriver in Spokane, means traveling easily more than three miles.
"If I was just walking and somebody was 300 feet away, I'm bothering them?'' avid smoker and golfer Greg Presley told the Spokane parks board during a public hearing. "We've got to have some common sense.''
Thomas Bonk gained entry into the west wing of PGA Tour headquarters where Tim Finchem and most of the vice presidential army pushes paper crafts arfully worded memos and religiously reads GeoffShackelford.com (#1 in city in Florida, four months running!) PGATOUR.com.
Inside the West Building is where you find Finchem's office, down a carpeted hallway, past a flotilla of dark brown wooden office furniture and rows of metal cabinets. Photographs of smiling players cover the beige walls.
The green-carpeted Executive Suite is the biggest office in the building, as it probably should be. At the end near the window, two sofas and two chairs surround a coffee table. And at the other end of the office, Finchem's horseshoe-shaped wooden desk fronts a phalanx of six chairs that face him.
Is that one chair for every VP making over $1 million?
There are two computers on the credenza. A huge, flat screen television hugs on the wall. An armoire rests against the opposite wall, a striped dress shirt hanging on the outside.
Besides dozens of golf clubs leaning against the wall, other mementos are all around, most prominent among them a couple of dozen photographs of Finchem with presidents and golf's elite. There are also golf bags from four past Presidents Cup events -- a Finchem invention, just like the three-year-old FedEx Cup.
From the looks of things, Finchem runs a buttoned-down ship, at least judging from the buttoned-down dress shirts that are part of the dress code. Ties are required, except this week, because it's tournament time. But even on casual Fridays, golf shirts aren't allowed. Finchem walked in at a brisk pace. He was wearing a red golf shirt (Dress codes aren't for commissioners).
In all seriousness, I finally figured out how to look like an important tour staffer: Carry leather "padfolio" under arm, light blue oxford, dark slacks, designer shades. You can gain entry anywhere on the property with that look. Anywhere!
Nope, not the Brand Lady speaking, but it is a story on the LPGA event in Virginia and it's future. The Commish is quoted, but it's Tim Schoen, Anheuser-Busch's Vice President for Sports and Entertainment Marketing who drops the beautiful MBAspeak.
But he pointed out that A-B's broad-based involvement with sports in the past three decades has helped the company grow from a 25-percent share of the domestic market in 1980 to almost a 50-percent share today. "So as the new owners come in and they ask us what fuels our brands," Schoen said, "sports is a big part of it. It's part of the DNA of the growth model. So, I don't see any drastic changes, because they want the brands to grow as well."
Reader Bob thought I was a bit lazy in not reading the Tim Finchem et. al transcript from Tuesday, so after scrolling past the mutual admiration society meeting between the Commish and players present, I did get a nice chuckle out of this give and take regarding the new charity slogan and the possibility that its unveiling might be timed with the recent PR hits golf has taken.
Q. Lastly, how much of this is a response to the publicity, I guess, around Northern Trust and everything that came out around that time of the year?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: None.
Q. None at all?
COMMISSIONER TIM FINCHEM: No. I mean, the general question of conveying to people that might be misinformed about the economic impact or charitable impact is something we need to address, but that's -- if we're talking about the public sector, we're talking about a couple hundred people. So this is a broad-based outreach program nationally.
In the case you're talking about, there were two -- at least best I'm able to decipher, two members of Congress that got all the headlines, and all the other members of Congress, a lot of who not only know about what we do but are involved in some of the things we do or are supportive, in today's environment those voices don't always get heard. We may have a little bit of work to do there.
This comes on the heels of several years of thinking through how we can elevate what we're doing.
While Tim Finchem basks in the glory of The Players, Commissioner Bivens went all Jimmy Carter on us and joined in the LPGA's Habitat for Humanity photo-op.
Here she is with Jiyai Shin.
Delightful day of traveling. Really. Another benefit of the recession: planes on time, lots of empty seats and no shoving to get those baggage bins filled. The Jacksonville airport is a beauty, which all of the PGA Tour VP's deserve for all of the traveling they do.
Then I stepped outside into the sauna.
Oh how I forgot that wonderful combination of pine, swamp wetlands, alligator sweat and the muggy day hints of burning trash (LA smog smells so much better, but I'm biased.)
Turns out, my friend and passionate Jax defender Mark Spencer says this is a dry heat for the area. Wow.
I know from reading Garry Smits tonight that No. 17 plays a lot tougher downwind since the move to May, and after my first hit of southern humidity in a while, I'll be rooting to see air movement for different reasons.
Nonetheless I look forward to getting a glimpse of the course for the first time in twenty years and the event for the first time ever. I'm sure it'll live up to the hype and then some. More tomorrow.
Together, We Have Come Up With A New Slogan To Push Back With When The Barney Frank's Of The World Criticize Us
It pains me to have missed Tim Finchem's spellbinding press conference Tuesday, because I would love to have asked him about this story noticed by reader Kevin. (To summarize: a Congressman is tired of boner pill ads airing between the hours of 6 am to 10 pm. Uh oh!).
But having caught an extended clip on Golf Channel (and the horrified look on Steve Sands' face after the clip concluded), I guess I missed the detailed explanation of the PGA Tour's new charity slogan, err... "this new, elevated charity platform" as David Toms put it.
The press release taught me all sorts of new buzzwords (activate, mobilize, and my new fav to describe a web page..."charity landing page") plus relentless usage of the classics (engaging, impact, platform, benchmark).
I guess the underlying statement in the release was pretty clear: after the Northern Trust Open debacle we need to better market our charity efforts. But that slogan? "Together, anything's possible?"
Here I thought the anything's possible line was a goner when it was dropped while the tour was taking Casey Martin to court. I'm too cranky to help the tour come up with some better slogan's or one that is shorter than my headline above, so readers, please, offer your suggestions.
You think Tiger's in denial about some of this swing issues? That's nothing compared to Phil's deep, deep denial about the impact of his white belt. Steve Elling reports that even when faced with the scoring average, Phil says he looks too good in the belt to back down!
"Yeah, I know it's not too good," he said of his scoring average, which does not include his white-belted loss to Stewart Cink at Accenture Match Play. "But it's not going to stop me from wearing it.
I've searched a few articles on Monday's U.S. Open media day and most focus on the sale of unwanted corporate passes, but a witness said that the state of New York's Dave Catalano David Paterson mentioned that the USGA is paying $5.5 million in rent for the Bethpage week. Has anyone seen his comments mentioned? ASAP only features Mike Davis and Tiger Woods' transcripts. That number sounds ridiculously high.
We have clarification! It was the governor. From Mark Herrmann's story:
Gov. David A. Paterson, who appeared at media day, said, "They say that sequels are never as good as the originals, but we are working very hard to make sure that this U.S. Open will be as exciting and as energetic as the one seven years ago. From the tens of millions of dollars that will be generated into the region to the $5.5 million that has already been paid as a rental fee by the USGA, this will be a real shot in the arm for Long Island and for our entire state."
Today marks the release of Jenkins At The Majors, a collection of Dan's best write-ups from those four events not called The Players. You may recall that Jenkins answered questions last year upon the release of The Franchise Babe, and he kindly talks to us about his second golf anthology. The book includes an Introduction to the essays and a commentary on golf journalism, along with an Epilogue where Dan lists his "all-time golf team, driver through the putter and the interview room."
GS: So you've got a new book out of your major championship essays. Is this all of them or a selection of favorites as picked out by you or some really bright book editor?
DJ: My original title of the new book was "Deadline at the Majors." I still like this better than "Jenkins at the Majors." Nevertheless...I chose 94 pieces from newspapers and magazines as being representative of the 198 majors I've covered since 1951. From Hogan to Tiger, as it happens, or from the Fort Worth Press to Golf Digest, with the Dallas Times Herald and Sports Illustrated in between.
All of the pieces had to be shortened, of course, and some of them I've tweaked, and there is a bit of fresh material included, but basically it's stuff I wrote on deadline. I hope it presents a pretty good picture of pro golf as it unfolded before my very eyes over nearly 60 years.
GS: Some writers would rather go see a Celine Dion concert than revisit their past rants. How do you handle reading your old stuff?
DJ: I don't enjoy looking back at my old stuff, other than to enjoy the historical value of it. Sometimes I'm amazed at how less than regurgitating it was, and quite often I'm left to wonder who that stranger was that sneaked into my office and wrote that embarrassing tirade.
GS: The Players Championship is this week. You lived down there for a while. Do you miss Ponte Vedra much?
DJ: I enjoyed my time in Ponte Vedra---it got me back on the golf course after all those years in Manhattan when the major sports were smoking, drinking, typing and hanging out. But it was finally time to go home to Texas. You CAN go home again and be happy. I'm living proof. I haven't been back to Ponte Vedra in 10 years. I'm sure it's changed a lot in some respects but stayed the same in others.
GS: The U.S. Open returns to Bethpage and close to another place you used to live. Are you hanging out in the city for old time's sake or staying out on boring old Long Island?
DJ: The Bethpage Open will be my 200th major and I'll be at the press hotel again in a part of Long Island I never knew existed, an hour from the course or anywhere to eat.
GS: Any deep thoughts heading into Bethpage?
DJ: I'm not a big fan of the course. There's no hole you want to take away with you, which is true of most places other than Pine Valley, Cypress Point, or Augusta National. There's a terrible sameness to Bethpage, but it plays tough, and the old-fashioned round greens look like unidentified flying objects have landed there.
GS: Seen any good movies or read any good books lately?
DJ: Good movies are harder and harder to find. But plenty of good books are out there if you like some of my favorite authors---Daniel Silva, Michael Connelly, James W. Hall, Alan Furst, and John Sandford, to name a few.
GS: Interspersed throughout your literature has been the line about "nothing that a good old depression wouldn't fix." Well we could be there. Is it at least righting some of the wrongs?
DJ: Yeah, I used to say a good old Depression could fix a lot of things---meaning greed. But it hasn't fixed the PGA Tour yet. I do love the game, but what has prompted that statement is purely my own frustration with the fact that I can work two years on a book, and some guy I've never heard of, who didn't graduate from college, and never went to class when he was IN college, and doesn't know how to do anything but hit a golf ball, can make more money in one week than my book will by finishing 5th in a regular tournament I don't give a shit about , and it's not even achieving anything. It's not WINNING or even accomplishing anything.
There's something wrong with that picture. It's why in my declining years I have arrived at the point where I don't give a damn about anything but the four majors and the Ryder Cup. They are important. The regular tour sucks.
I should mention that the regular tour didn't used to suck. It used to be quite glamorous, when the LA Open was always first, when the Crosby was the Crosby, when the players wore snappy clothes and movie stars hung around them, when the Florida swing had its own charm, same for Texas, and so on. But mainly when every winner was SOMEBODY.
I live in the past. It was a better world.
So disappointing that with all of these LPGA'ers clogging my Twitter account with messages about how their feet hurt, not one reported anything of substance about last weekend's LPGA summit. Hank Kurz Jr. tries to shed a little more light on the event.
Imagine PGA Tour players doing this:
An example of the community involvement exercises that can only help, vice president of tournament marketing and sales Eric Albrecht said, is the planned building of a Habitat for Humanity home by several players this week in advance of the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill.
I really enjoyed some of the preview coverage for this year's Players. On top of the previously noted Goydos features, check out Phil Richards's interview with Pete Dye who says TPC Sawgrass is the worst ground he's ever worked with. And look at that photo of Pete almost naked out in the dirt. Guess all the rattlers had been rounded up by that point.
There is this entertaining grilling about his renowned car rental usage.
PARTNERS MAGAZINE: Do you still rent your cars?
DYE: Sure do.
PARTNERS MAGAZINE: Why not buy or lease?
DYE: Never have. I got to thinking, if I bought a new car, how much would it cost me to own a new car and pay the insurance and upkeep and this and that, and then everywhere I go, I'd have to rent a car. So if I go down to Indianapolis Airport and take off for four or five days, I'd have to pay a premium just to park the car, and then wherever I went, Jacksonville or Timbuktu, I'd have to rent a car. So finally it dawned on me to quit worrying about it, and wherever I was I'd walk into National Car Rental and rent a car, even if I stayed here in Indianapolis for four or five days. I finally figured out in the long run it costs less.And wherever I am I have a car. I just take the first car in line. I get the car and then I park it and I never remember what it is. Nowadays, with keyless entry that honks the horn, I finally can find my car. I'm always honking the horn all over the parking lot.
Bob Goalby remembers first commissioner Joe Dey's influence on the PGA Tour despite never using words like conterminous.
Garry Smits reports on the NBC conference call, where it's hard to argue with the point Johnny Miller raises about Tiger and TPC Sawgrass.
Miller stopped just short of suggesting that Woods not even carry a driver next week.
"He should hit a lot of stinger 3-woods and long irons to give himself the best chance to win," Miller said.
"Forget the driver."
Maltbie said the Stadium Course is "very constricting" on Woods.
"It doesn't seem to be the course he likes to play," Maltbie said. "It's not a knock on the course."
Cody Barden, Jeff Klauk's instructor, reminds us that it hasn't been an easy road to the Players for young Klauk, who grew up playing and mowing the course.
Rich Lerner was at TPC Sawgrass on Monday and asked five players the same questions. It makes for a fun read, especially the answers about No. 17.
Thanks to reader Tim for Robert Beck's dawn to dusk image stitching of the scene at No. 17. Let's hope they didn't pay for the accompanying music. And make sure you go the full five minutes! Great stuff at the end.
Michael Bamberger tells us about Jacksonville and the PGA Tour's influence there:
It would be hard to estimate, or overstate, what the PGA Tour has done to promote local growth. The town's golf vibe helped spark the building of Panther Creek and Deercreek and other golf-and-housing developments that avoid the word Olde. Fancy doesn't sell in Jacksonville.
I had to brace myself for all of the Quail Hollow swooning in this week's SI Golf Group treatise. And this where I had to call it a read.
Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Kym Hougham, the Quail Hollow tourney director, said the membership agreed to cut the rough, in part, because of the recession and to bring some excitement to the gallery. "We think that, especially in this year's environment, this needs to be entertaining," he said. "People are spending hard-earned dollars to come out here, and we want to reward them with birdies and eagles and roars and smiles."
Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: Cutting the rough because of the recession? That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Only a country club meeting could produce such a goofy decision.
Van Sickle: I agree with Rick. Again? Yes. Cutting the rough means more mowing, more gasoline and more expense. That's total club-meeting gibberish.
Or more rough means more water, more seed, more fertilizer...
Thankfully I could cleanse my pallette on Ron Green's blog post chat with Geoff Ogilvy about Quail Hollow and its setup. Naturally, he delivered a nuanced and spot-on analysis.
“It’s much better. It’s more interesting to play and I’m sure it’s much more interesting to watch. It’s not about the length of the (two-inch) rough. It just needs to be unpredictable," Ogilvy said.
“When it’s always a good lie it’s not good and when it’s always a bad lie it’s not good. It makes a guy have to make smart decisions. Anything that makes us think is good. Less rough and firm greens makes us think more.
“It’s got to be better for golf to try to get pros to use their brains a little bit.
“Normally, it’s just pull out whatever club and wail it straight at the pin. Golf is better when you have to think about where you miss it. That knocks back to the tee shot. You have to put your tee shot in the right spot to make the second shot easier to get under the hole. It just makes it a more interesting game.”
He goes on to deliver his verdict on Quail Hollow as a major venue...it's funny.
...Seve looks incredible for a guy who has had his head opened four times and is in round four of chemotherapy. The Telegraph reports on his first public appearance.